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Dheekra was the single word that started my love affair with Parsi food. I had heard that word many times in Indian movies. Growing up abroad I did not know what it meant. I asked my father. It means a "child" he said, it is Parsi. What was Parsi? Who were these people, always portrayed in the movies to be a fair skinned intellectual lot? I had to learn more. Rohinton Mistry's books opened doors for me to a culture that was complex and lovely and endearing. I fell in love with the characters he created, living together in a multi-storey building in Mumbai.
A community that is small in number, it has contributed to the world’s political, business and arts in amazing ways: think JRD Tata, Godrej (India’s leading business families) and Zubin Mehta. They came from what was Persia, now Iran, and landed in India in the state of Gujarat. Unfortunately this wonderful community is fast decreasing in numbers. This is primarily due to the structure of their religion, Zoroastrainism. There are no converts allowed. One can only be born Parsi.
Their cuisine is a tantalizing marriage of Persian and Gujarati styles. Flavoring their curries with nuts and apricots, they brought the richness of Persia to the simple Gujarati food. Parsi food is not hot with chilies but has complex flavors and textures. They are primarily non vegetarians and enjoy eating chicken, mutton and eggs.
I saw a recipe years ago on the Parsi way of making eggs - cooking them on top of potato chips. I would read the recipe over and over again and while it sounded quite interesting, i have to admit that I did not quite have the nerve to try it.. I mean frying eggs on top of potato chips?
Then, I thought, what do I have to lose. I will try it and if I hate it, I will just eat something else! Well, there was no worry of that. The dish combines all my favorite ingredients - onions, potato chips and yes, eggs. It is delicious, unusual and is now a staple in my kitchen.
I would love for you to try it and share your thoughts here.
Eggs on Potato Chips (Wafer Par Ida)
Recipe adapted from My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home CookingCopyright © 2007 by Niloufer Ichaporia King.
1 tablespoon ghee, clarified butter, or mixture of vegetable oil and butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Ginger-Garlic paste (optional)
2 to 3 hot green chiles, finely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
4 good handfuls of plain potato chips from a just-opened bag
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon (about) water
• Heat the ghee over medium heat in a sturdy medium skillet, preferably cast iron. Add the onion and let it soften, stirring occasionally, a few minutes. Before it browns, add the paste if you like and the green chiles, and as soon as the mixture looks cooked, add the fresh coriander. Crumble in the potato chips, tossing the contents of the pan to combine them thoroughly. Make nests in the surface of the mixture—they'won't be perfect hollows—and crack an egg into each. Pour a tablespoon or so of water around the edges of the pan to generate some steam, cover the skillet tightly, and let the eggs cook just long enough to set the whites without turning the chips soggy.
• Turn out onto waiting plates.
Serves 2 to 4.